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What It Means to Be Equally Yoked & What the Bible Says About Dating Non-Christians

dating & relationships Mar 26, 2021

Equally Yoked - What Does This Mean & Can Christians Date Non-Christians?

When I was first saved and became a Christian, I had no idea what the expression “equally yoked” meant. 

I was a new Christian and was wondering if it was okay to date a non-Christian or nonbeliever, or someone who didn’t believe in God.

Growing up, my mom always told me that dating someone that shared the same faith was important, but dating someone that didn't believe in God wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

But all that changed when I surrendered my life to Jesus.

When I started googling whether it was okay to date a non-Christian, I was involved with a guy who wasn't pursuing God. So you can imagine my shock when I discovered what the Bible actually said about being equally yoked and about dating nonbelievers.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about:

  • What the Bible says about being equally yoked and if it’s okay for Christians to date and marry nonbelievers or unbelievers
  • How to know if you are equally yoked
  • Why it’s important to only date other believers
  • What to do if you find yourself unequally yoked in dating or in marriage.

What Does the Bible Say About Being Equally Yoked & Dating Nonbelievers?

Equally Yoked Bible Verses

The most common bible verse that addresses whether Christians can date nonbelievers or non-Christians is from 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” - 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 ESV

This verse is where the term “unequally yoked” comes from, and in the ESV translation, it modifies it slightly to say “do not be yoked together with unbelievers.”

We will talk more about what being equally yoked actually means below, but I wanted to highlight what the NLT version of the Bible says about this same verse.

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols?” - 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 NLT

“For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” – 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 NLT

I love the NLT translation because it makes it even more clear; as Christians, we are not to team up with other unbelievers. We are not to live with darkness – how can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?

Even without knowing what being equally yoked means, we see in this translation that we are God’s holy people and that he does not want us to live with darkness. We see that God wants us to be set apart and does not want to join ourselves to other unbelievers in marriage.

What Does Equally Yoked Mean? Where Did the Term Yoke Come From?

Before we can talk about other bible verses that talk about the importance of dating other believers, let’s make sure we understand what equally yoked means and where it came from.

Equally Yoked Meaning

According to Merriam-Webster, a yoke is a wooden bar or frame by which two animals, like oxen, are joined at the heads or necks for working together. The animals are joined by the yoke with the purpose of being joined or linked to accomplish the task at hand, such as pulling a load.

If two animals are unequally yoked, this means that one of the animals is not as strong or as tall as the other animal. The weaker or shorter animal would not be able to walk as fast or support the load, resulting in the pair walking in circles and not being able to pull the load effectively.

The picture below illustrates a team of oxen being equally yoked; now I know this is a crazy picture but it helps show you what a yoke actually is.

Since farming was big back in the days of the Bible, this analogy made more sense to God’s people back then. The Israelites knew that if a team of oxen were unequally yoked, they would not be able to accomplish the task that needed to be done for farming. Instead of working together, one of the oxen would be slowing down the other one.

Equally Yoked in Marriage

When it comes to marriage, God’s intent is for the husband and wife to work together for the mission he’s set before you. God has a purpose and plan for each marriage and wants to use both of you to fulfill this mission.

Just like the oxen, he doesn’t want you to be unequally yoked with a nonbeliever who will slow you down or who will deter you from your mission altogether.

God wants you to have a missional marriage that serves him and his Kingdom; not an unequally yoked marriage.

Other Bible Verses About Dating Non Christians or Unbelievers

While the equally yoked verse above is a common verse to support that dating nonbelievers is disobeying God’s commands, there are several other bible verses that emphasis how serious God is about Christians only dating and marrying other Christians.

Free to Marry Those That Belong To & Love the Lord

“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 7:39 NIV

The key to this bible verse is that a woman is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must BELONG to the Lord.

The NLT translation says it another way; that a woman is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he LOVES the Lord.

“A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord.” - 1 Corinthians 7:39 NLT

In the Old Testament, God reminded his people to only marry other believers several times. As you can see below, God often reminded them at critical stages in their journey to emphasis that obeying this command was a big deal.

When Moses Received the Ten Commandments from God

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on tablets the second time, he reminded Moses not to intermarry with foreign wives.

“You must not make a treaty of any kind with the people living in the land. They lust after their gods, offering sacrifices to them. They will invite you to join them in their sacrificial meals, and you will go with them. Then you will accept their daughters, who sacrifice to other gods, as wives for your sons. And they will seduce your sons to commit adultery against me by worshiping other gods.” – Exodus 34:15-16

Before the Israelites Enter the Promised Land

God reminds his people again to obey the command not to intermarry before the Israelites enter the Promised Land.

“You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and he will quickly destroy you.” – Deuteronomy 7:3-4 NLT

“For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.” – Deuteronomy 7:6 NLT

I love how God even explains why it’s a big deal not to marry nonbelievers in this verse; because the nonbelievers will lead their children away to worship other gods. God also reminds his people that they are his holy people; and that they were chosen to be God’s special treasure.

As a Christian, you are God’s chosen son or daughter. You are his treasure; he doesn’t want to see you married to someone that worships other gods or the ways of this world.

Joshua's Final Words to the Israelites

In the book of Joshua and in Joshua’s final words to the Israelites, we see God reminding them not to intermarry again now that they had settled in the Promised Land.

“So be very careful to love the Lord your God. But if you turn away from him and cling to the customs of the survivors of these nations remaining among you, and if you intermarry with them, then know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive them out of your land. Instead, they will be a snare and a trap to you, a whip for your backs and thorny brambles in your eyes, and you will vanish from this good land the Lord your God has given you.” – Joshua 23:11-13

In this verse, God is warning the Israelites to obey his instruction not to intermarry with nonbelievers. He is warning them that if they do, they will be a snare and a trap for them.

If Christians marry nonbelievers, they will be a snare and trap for them.

After the Wall Was Rebuilt in Nehemiah

We again see the command not to intermarry with nonbelievers in Nehemiah, right after the Israelites had rebuilt the wall and rededicated themselves to the Lord.

“We promise not to let our daughters marry the pagan people of the land, and not to let our sons marry their daughters.” – Nehemiah 10:30

In these bible verses, God makes it clear that he only wants his people to date and marry other people that also love him and walk in his ways. God knows how important marriage is and he doesn’t want his children being led astray by nonbelievers to worship other gods or ways of the world.

Why Is It Important to Be Equally Yoked in Dating or in Marriage?

Now that you’ve seen what the Bible says about dating nonbelievers, we will talk about why it’s important to obey God’s command to only date and marry other believers.

So he doesn’t pull you away from Christ

It is so important to date someone that will bring you closer towards Jesus; not someone who won’t tempt you to grow further from God and his ways.

Just like God talked about in the Bible, he kept warning the Israelites not to intermarry because he knew the nonbelievers would turn his people away to worship other gods; the nonbelievers would draw them further away from God.

For example, if you date a guy who doesn’t have a relationship with God, sex before marriage is one of the biggest areas that you’ll most likely disagree in.

If you’re single, you probably already know how hard it is to obey God’s design for sex and to wait until marriage to have sex. It’s hard enough as a Christian to wait until marriage; a non-Christian won’t understand or likely won’t have the desire to wait until marriage.

They may say they respect your decision to wait in the beginning, but over time, they may pressure you to give in and do more than you’re comfortable with. They may get mad at you and deceive you by saying that you would have sex with them if you loved them.

In addition to sex, they could lead you further away from God and into sin in other areas of your life. There are so many pressures in the world to give into temptation and you need a spouse that is going to bring you closer to God, not draw you away from him.

So you don't face the consequences of disobeying God's commands

Even if you’re tempted to still date a guy because he’s a great guy, we are called to obey God’s word out of love and respect for God.

“If you love me, obey my commandments.” – John 14:15

As Christians, we are called to obey God’s commands out of love. But God also tells us that there are consequences when we disobey his commands.

"Like the nations the Lord is about to destroy before you, you will perish if you do not obey the Lord your God." - Deuteronomy 8:20

So we know that obedience is important to God. But it’s important to understand that by choosing to disobey or not follow God, someone is by default choosing to obey the Devil.

“You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” – Ephesians 2:2

This means that if a guy is not seeking God, he is seeking the ways of the world. And the verse above tells us that choosing to disobey God equates to obeying the devil.

Do you want to be in a relationship with someone who chooses to follow the ways of the Devil? Do you want to let the Devil into your relationship by dating a nonbeliever?

So you can raise kids that love God and walk in his ways

Even if a guy appears to a great guy and appears to have a moral compass, at some point your spiritual differences will impact the decisions you’ll have to make together. Raising kids being one major example.

The Bible even addresses this point in Deuteronomy 7:3-4 NLT from up above.

“Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods.” – Deuteronomy 7:3-4 NLT

Kids growing up today face enough pressure and temptation to fit in with the world even in a family of Christian parents. Can you imagine how hard it would be to teach your kids to follow God and his ways if their dad didn’t support you?

In Jentezen Franklin’s book, Right People Right Place Right Plan, he talks about a father’s effect on children’s spiritual growth.

“In homes where the father is a committed Christian, the children have a 75 percent chance of growing up to become committed Christians themselves. But in homes where only the mother is a committed Christian, that number drops to 23 percent.”

Will your husband be okay with you teaching your kids about God? Will they be able to go to church with you? Even if he is fine with the kids going to church with you, will your kids want to have their own relationship with God when they see their dad staying home and watching football on Sundays?

What about when you face trials and difficult seasons of life? Will you be on the same page with some of life’s biggest decisions? Abortion, politics, adultery, porn, integrity at work, drug use, alcohol use, etc.

At some point your spiritual differences will cause you to disagree on major life decisions. And when you have kids together, these decisions will directly impact how your kids are raised and their own personal relationship with God.

How Do You Know If You Are Equally Yoked in Dating?

The bible verses above reference being equally yoked to other believers, and marrying someone only if he belongs to or loves the Lord.

But just because a guy believes in God doesn’t mean you’re spiritually yoked.

As I talk about in another blog post, just because a guy believes in God doesn't mean he has a relationship with God or is a man of God.

If you’ve been a Christian for awhile or in the dating world long enough, you’ve probably realized that just because someone says they are a Christian doesn’t always mean they love God or obey his Word.

And just because you meet a cute guy in church doesn’t mean you’re necessarily equally yoked.

It’s also important to be on the same level spiritually in your relationship. Just like the yoke that holds two oxen together, they will be unequally yoked if one of them is shorter or weaker than the other.

With a relationship, even though a guy goes to church, you could still be unequally yoked if he is not as spiritually mature or strong as you.

For example, you could be unequally yoked spiritually if you spend time with God daily and he only wants to spend time with God on church on Sundays.

You could also be unequally yoked if you live by God’s Word in the Bible and he doesn’t read or follow what God’s Word says.

You could also be unequally yoked if one of you lives by the Holy Spirit, and the other person does not follow or rely on the power of the Holy Spirit at all.

In addition to the examples above, ask yourself the following questions to determine if you are equally yoked in your relationship.

  • Does he have his own relationship with God?
  • Does he love God with all his heart, mind, and soul?
  • Does he obey God’s Word and commands in the Bible?
  • Does he seek God throughout the week or only on Sundays?
  • Is he only going to church to make you happy, or is he going because he wants to seek God for himself?
  • Is he growing closer to God and in spiritual maturity?
  • Does he have fruit in his life that shows that he is growing spiritually and walking in God’s ways?

Still not sure if your boyfriend is a Godly man? In this blog post, I address 15 ways to discern if a guy is a Godly man and has a relationship with God.

Should You Break Up With Someone You Are Dating If You Are Unequally Yoked?

This is a tough question. You should always pray and seek God’s guidance for you personally, trusting that he will speak to you and give you discernment for your personal situation.

After taking your relationship in prayer to God, I would at first see if they were open to seeking a relationship with God and going to church with you. If he is open to God and starts to establish his own relationship with God, and isn’t just going to church to make you happy, then you may be able to stay together.

You may not be equally yoked just yet, but if he is genuinely seeking God and growing closer to God in a community of other believers, you can pray that you will both be equally yoked as he continues seeking God.

But if your boyfriend is not open to seeking God and if you truly want to obey God’s commands and want God’s best for your life, then going your separate ways may be for the best.

Obeying God and trusting him should come first. If you truly want to honor God and respect his ways, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dating the person. Honoring God by obeying his commands should come first.

Choosing to put God first over your relationship takes trust. Supernatural trust that God’s ways are best and that he has someone better for you.

When you find a man of God down the road that loves both Jesus and you, you’ll be grateful you parted ways with the guy who didn’t share your same fire for Jesus.

And I’m not saying that this guy isn’t the one for you. I have friends that became Christians and decided to break up with their boyfriend because he wasn’t open to pursuing a relationship with God. They were unequally yoked so they made the difficult decision to obey God’s Word and end the relationship.

They went their separate ways, but then God started moving in the guy’s heart. He started going to church and seeking God on his own. And then they got back together and started seeking God together. They were now equally yoked.

My friend saw God moving in her love story, but don’t stay with someone expecting this to happen. If he’s the one, God will bring him back.

But every day you stay with the wrong person, you are delaying the right person from coming into your life.

Every day you chose to disobey God and stay with the wrong person, you are delaying receiving God’s best and blessings for your life.

God will honor you and bless you for obeying and trusting him in this area.

Can you pray for his salvation instead and hope that he changes his mind so you can stay together?

If you love God and want to obey him, I know it’s not easy seeing someone you care about choosing not to follow God.

I was in the same situation when I first became a Christian. I liked a guy who wasn’t open to pursuing God and my heart was torn. I really liked him; but I wanted to obey and follow God more.

But I didn’t end things right away. I prayed that God would soften his heart and that he would change his mind once he saw how awesome my life was now that I had God in my life.

But after a few months, he only drew me further away from God. He drew me into temptation and I kept falling into sexual sin. God kept making it clear that I needed to obey his Word and that I couldn’t hang out with him anymore in hopes of him turning to God.

I still don’t know if he ever turned to God. But I know that ending things and choosing to obey God's Word in this area was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

But he's a nice guy, do I have to break up with him just because he doesn't have a relationship with God?

I see this question come up all the time and I get it; it does seem hard at times to find men that truly love God and walk in his ways. And it's even harder to let a good guy go just because he doesn't love God.

When I first became a Christian, I almost didn't think this was a big deal because I didn't see guys that loved God anywhere around me. I didn't think they existed.

I wanted to obey God's Word to only date other Christians, but where was I supposed to meet these guys? Did any exist?

But God showed me that I had been looking in all the wrong places (I was still looking at the bar instead of at church). And he showed me that loving God is the #1 criteria. 

Even if the guy has a great job, is super attractive, has vision for his life, owns a home, loves kids, etc., God makes it clear that you should only date him if he belongs to or loves the Lord.

Should You Get a Divorce If You Are Unequally Yoked in Marriage?

If you’re married and are unequally yoked in your marriage, don’t panic. You are seeking God and doing the right thing by studying God’s Word.

Good sees you and he sees your heart. And God tells those that are already married what to do if they find themselves unequally yoked in marriage.

“If a fellow believer has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a believing woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage.

Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. (But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.)

Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?” – 1 Corinthians 7:12-16

So if you’re husband is an unbeliever but he is willing to live with you, you are not supposed to leave him.

You’re supposed to pray. And trust God to move in his heart that he will turn to God.

I love how Jentezen Franklin talks about this in his book, Right People Right Place Right Plan. He shares the verse from Acts 16:31, that says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

He then tells a story of a woman who was the first to be born again in her family. For two years, she went to church alone and would cry herself to sleep wondering if her husband and son would ever be saved and share her faith.

But then the Holy Spirit started to show her how to win her husband. God challenged her to control her tongue.  As she started showing her husband more respect, honor and love and as she started praying for her husband every day, her husband started going to church with her as he saw a change in his wife.

Her son started going to church with them since he saw his dad going and on that Sunday her son decided to join them for church, he gave his life to Jesus and was saved.

A few weeks later, her husband gave his life to Jesus too.

If you find yourself unequally yoked in your marriage, God has not forgotten about you. He has a plan for you and he hears every prayer for your family.

Does Being Equally Yoked Only Apply to Romantic Relationships?

While a few of the bible verses above explicitly mention marriage, God has also showed me that the “equally yoked” verse can apply to other relationships and situations as well.

In the NLT version of 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, it says not to team up with those who are unbelievers; how can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?"

For example, God has showed me that this verse can apply to business opportunities. Would it be wise to build a business with someone who may not follow or obey God’s Word?

God also showed me that this verse can apply when choosing a roommate. Even in San Diego when rent prices are high by the beach, God showed me that we should not live with others who do not walk in his ways. Just like in marriage, I would not want my roommate bringing any darkness into my home.

Are You Trusting God to Bring You Your Future Husband?

If you want to be equally yoked with a man of God, download your free prayer guide here to get 5 Prayers for Your Future Husband.

You can also join my free, 14-day Attract Your Future Husband prayer challenge to learn how to pray for yourself and your future husband as you wait on God to bring you together.

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